In a comment to my previous post , Diggitt said, "That world is out there whether we like it or not, and focusing on our own small selves will only delay that examination." That was not what I meant, although rereading the post, I can see where one might come to that conclusion. My meaning was closer to the warning one receives on an airplane, "Should the oxygen masks deploy, secure your own before attempting to help others."
Why have our numbers dropped despite our advertising, our "bring a friend to church" programs, and all other efforts? It is clear- at least to me- that the problem is not the lack of exposure, it's that the visitors aren't finding anything that makes them want to stay; we simply aren't relevant to their lives. I'm sure that this is why our church is statistically Lilly-white, despite all our AR/AO efforts.
Have you ever attended an African American or mixed race church? Not just once for a RE project, but really attended, spent some time there? I have; in my youth I went to a Baptist church that was mixed, and it was a very different experience from what one finds in a UU church. They, like us, are heavily into social justice and activism- look at the controversy over the social commentary at then-candidate Obama's church! But they, unlike us, also preach sin and personal redemption; they, unlike us, teach to look within for the causes of evil, and how to fight it, how to be on constant guard against it. they, unlike us, are speaking of personal issues relevant to the daily lives of the butts in the pew.
Why has religion been so central to humankind since time immemorial? Because we are addicted to sin, and we know it; church is our rehab. If an alcoholic goes to an AA meeting and finds nothing but faxes firing off letters to congressmen, he'll leave and find a chapter that actually discusses alcoholism- that is why we don't retain those visitors. This doesn't mean that we stop our social activism; again, look at the African American churches- but it does mean that we have to start addressing personal, spiritual issues if we ever want to be relevant.
Read that sermon on sin that Diggitt referenced in the comment. It says many of the things I said in my previous post, things that need to be said over and over, and yet she also said, "I ran through our congregational archives and realize it's not a sermon the minister has chosen to post online. That's interesting in itself." It sure is. To me, it says that the minister was afraid of how it would be received, despite a parishioner having paid $125 to hear it. It says that a UU minister can't talk about our darker selves without being accused of preaching the Christian "inherent depravity" doctrine, that he can't speak of sin without being accused of believing in (cover your children's ears!) God. That is what must be changed if we are to be relevant, or even survive, let alone grow. I don't know that either of the candidates for UUA president can facilitate this change- or even wants to. But the only one who gives any evidence of even understanding it is Laurel Hallman.